Below, I reconstruct as accurately as possible a remarkable conversation I happened to have while walking with my dog today on Hampstead Heath. Barrington (my dog) is a sweet but strong-willed terrier, prone to pursuing his own inclinations. This afternoon, we were taking advantage of a rare break in the clouds, following one of the Heath’s many improvised paths when Bear (as he is affectionately known) suddenly broke away, dashing through a hedgerow and barking with great animation. Giving chase, and incurring some minor scratches on the way, I was relieved upon emerging from the brush into a small clearing to find Bear retrieving a tennis ball thrown by a girl of around ten, much to her delight and that of her two younger sisters. Near where the girls were playing, a middle-aged man with a heavy beard sat on a blanket, surrounded by the remains of a picnic and several newspapers. I apologized for Bear’s poor behaviour, and was trying to bring him to heel when the man put down the volume from which he had been reading aloud (Shakespeare if I’m not mistaken) and addressed himself to me.
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